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74 



THE HEBREW STUDENT. 



DAYID BEN JOSEPH KIMCHI. 



[From Kalisch's History of Hebrew Grammar.] 



David ben Joseph Kimchi was bom in Narbonne 
about 1160, in the old age of his father. He is justly re- 
garded as the greatest of Jewish grammarians, since he 
combined and enriched the labours of his predecessors, 
which he eagerly studied. He remained for centuries a 
never neglected mine of exact and minute observation ; 
and the first grammars and dictionaries compiled by Chris- 
tian scholars after the revival of learning, are substantially 
based on his works. Though he wrote also expositions of 
Books of the Old Testament, as the Chronicles, the Psalms, 
all the Prophets, Job and Genesis, which enjoyed a great 
reputation, and which by the liberality of their views en- 
tangled him in serious conflicts ; he became immortal 
chiefly by his work Michlol ("?V?30 that is, perfection), 
which consists of two parts: 1. A Hebrew Grammar 
(pnpnfl p"?rr), usually bearing the general name Michlol; 
and, 2. A Hebrew dictionary (f^H p^H), or more com- 
monly called "the Book of Boots" (D'fcHETr "iflD). 

His chief merits are an extreme simplicity, free, from 
all artificial views or forced speculations; lucidity and 
brevity ; and an abundant copiousness of materials. But 
it is impossible to overlook his serious defects. _ The prin- 
cipal reproach which even his warmest admirers must 
admit, is a singular want of order and system. The rules 
on the letters, the inflexion, and the Syntax, are most 
strangely mixed together. He begins with the verb, with- 
out even having touched on the letters, the vowels, or 
other signs. In introducing the first remarks on the 
regular conjugation, he mentions the anomalous transitions 
from one person of the verb to another ; some rules on the 
pausa occur in the explanation of the preterite ; they are 
connected with observations on the syntactical use of the 
plural for the singular, and vice versa ; the participle 
H1S3 (Hos. vii. 4), in which he regards the ,~l as paragogic, 
leads him to explain the nouns ending in ("J paragog. (like 
fT?* 1 ?) the n locale, the * compaginis and the ♦ of the 

construct state ; and the plural of the participle induces 
him to discuss the irregular use of the construct state. 
Before the forms of the suflixes have yet been mentioned, 
he quotes the cases in which the suflixes or pronouns stand 
pleonastically ; he mixes up the suflixes of nouns and 
verbs, and introduces many of their syntactical relations. 
Then follow successively remarks on the forms of the 
modifications, on the accusative as a complement of active 
verbs, and on the vowels of the preformatives before 
gutturals; and then on the servile letters, both with 
respect to form and syntax, but in almost endless confusion 
of arrangement. The instances, in which he supposes an 
omission of preformatives Q, 3, 7i.D)' ead him not only 
to the relative pronoun and the cases in which it is omitted, 
but to elliptic constructions in general, which naturally 
take him to important parts of the Syntax and even of 
Biblical exegesis ; he next goes through the different modi- 
fications of the verb ; and, in explaining Hithpael, and 
discussing the form 13TPI, he mentions incidentally the 

division of the letters in five classes according to the 
organs of speech. He then enters on the verb J"fi ; and, 
as an introduction to the verbs *"fi, he explains the pro- 
perties of the weak letters N, \ ♦; in speaking of the form 
B^JOn (Isaiah xxx. 5), he enumerates many cognate 

verbs (as 310 and 3t3')i and the transpositions of letters 

in words (as ^33 and 3t#3)i an d of words in propositions 

(OV to Up). He then passes through the irregular and 

defective verbs, on the whole, rightly dividing the various 
classes, but desultory as regards the particular instances 
and mostly adopting the alphabetical order. He then 
comes to the second chief division of his grammar, the 



nouns — and opens it with an exposition of the nouns, with 
their exceptions, crowding every variety of observations, 
without giving a single general rule to guide through the 
maze of words, after which follow the numerals in rather 
imperfect treatment. The third or concluding division 
disposes of the particles, which he explains, without 
classification, mostly in alphabetical arrangement, and 
among which he includes not a few pronouns. 

But want of order is not the author's only defect. 
Many explanations are erroneous and prove an imperfect 
appreciation of the fundamental laws of the language. In 
fact, Kimchi is not conspicuous for originality or novelty 
of views; he has not attempted to master, by rational or 
philosophical principles, the materials collected by con- 
scientious and discriminate observation ; he has not suc- 
ceeded in revealing the structure of the Hebrew language 
either by distinct laws or by a logical arrangement of 
details. 

EXCAVATING THE NILE DELTA. 

A society has been organized in England to excavate 
the delta of the Nile and has the approval of a great num- 
ber of distinguished supporters. It is proposed to raise a 
fund for the purpose of conducting excavations in the 
delta, which up to this time has been rarely visited by 
travelers and where but one site (Zoan-Tanis) has been 
explored by archaeologists. Yet here must, undoubtedly, 
lie concealed the documents of a lost period of the Bible 
history — documents which we may confidently hope will 
furnish the key to a whole series of perplexing problems. 
The position of the land of Goshen is now ascertained. 
The site of its capital, Goshen, is indicated only by a lofty 
mound ; but under this mound, if anywhere, are to be 
found the missing records of those four centuries of the 
Hebrew sojourn in Egypt which are passed over in a few 
verses of the Bible, so that the history of the Israelites, 
during that age is almost a blank. Pithom and Rameses, 
the " treasure or stone cities built during the oppression, 
would richly repay exploration. The sites of the cities of 
the Hyksos, especially Avaris, would yield monuments of 
no less interest, bearing on Phoenician as well as on 
Hebrew history. It must not be forgotten that Naukratis, 
the primitive Greek emporium in the west of the Delta, 
promises as ample a harvest to Hellenic archaeologists as 
Goshen to Semitic scholars. The period which would 
there be illustrated is one of the most interesting in the 
development of Greek art and is at the same time one of 
the most obscure. Besides the sites connected with 
Hebrew, Hellenic, and Phoenician history, the Delta is 
rich, in mounds of famous Egyptian cities, as Sais and 
Xois— this last being the capital of an early dynasty (the 
XIV), which is as yet wholly without written history. 
Yet more, it abounds in nameless tumuli and in inclosures 
of unknown origin, surrounded by massive walls, in the 
thickness of which sepulchral chambers are known to 
exist. 

— R. Simlai once commenced his discourse in the fol- 
lowing manner : Three hundred and sixty -five are the days 
of the solar year ; this also is the number of the negative 
precepts given to Moses on Sinai : two hundred and forty- 
eight members are in the human body ; and just as many 
affirmative precepts were given to Moses. For the purpose 
that each day and every limb may remind thee of one of 
the divine laws ! — Pal. Maccoih,fol. 23. 

— The Egyptian Museums (London, Paris, Berlin) con- 
tain almost as great a variety of ornaments for personal 
decoration (ivory, gold, silver), as are known to the fashions 
of modern life. They have been found in Egyptian tombs, 
pyramids and mummy-pits, and many of them must be as 
old as the age of the Pharaohs and the pyramids. — Hackett.